Friday, 17 January 2014

A Tendentious Claim

The News Letter has reported on Unionist reaction to the Committee of Experts' criticism of the Northern Ireland Executive with regard to its record on Irish.

The report contains two factual howlers, one by the newspaper and one by Michael McGimpsey — who among other achievements was the Northern Ireland Assembly's first Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, and whose brother, former Belfast Councillor Chris McGimpsey, was for a time learning the language. First, the sub-editor who wrote the headline appears to be believe that the Council of Europe has something to do with the EU. It most emphatically does not; the CoE's membership is much wider, and it should not be confused with the European Council, which actually is an EU body.

Secondly, although both Diane Dodds and Michael McGimpsey correctly point out that the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages is not justiciable — or, in the latter's terms, "binding" — Mr. McGimpsey makes the tendentious claim that "the 1998 Belfast Agreement was the settlement regarding minority languages in Northern Ireland and we have fulfilled our obligations under it." That blithely ignores the fact that the UK Government signed up to the European Charter only after the Agreement. Indeed, it is by this stage quite likely that a suspension of the Executive of any reasonable duration would see the UK Government passing an Irish Language Act, although perhaps not one with the teeth that activists would wish for. Such a suspension would be a disaster for community relations and quite possibly peace but may nevertheless be the best hope of bringing the treatment of Irish more closely into line with that of Scottish Gaelic and Welsh.

The overall impression? Head-in-the-sand parochialism.

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